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Jewish World Review August 17, 2004 / 30 Menachem-Av, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Terror Masters Revisited: Let’s go to the videotape


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Saturday's Washington Post had an article that quotes the usual unnamed intelligence sources saying that they are surprised to discover that al Qaeda has "reconstitute[d]" itself. This surprise derives from, inter alia, the computer data found recently in Pakistan, intelligence sources (both ours and friends'), and simply looking at the range of activities in which the terrorists engage.

This surprise is, as usual, unsettling, since it has been quite clear for some time now that al Qaeda and the other major terrorist groups — Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Jamaa, etc. — are all working together, and have been ever since we went into Afghanistan. The cooperation increased in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was only possible because the regimes who gave the bulk of the operational support to the terrorists — Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia — worked closely to coordinate the anti-American jihad. That coordination has, for the most part, continued (note the visit of Bashar Assad to Tehran at the time of the turnover of "sovereignty" in Iraq. At those meetings, Syria and Iran agreed on a five-point plan to attack us in Iraq, Europe, and at home, and to do everything possible — including massive efforts to get the price of oil as high as they can — to defeat President Bush in November's elections).

This helps understand the coordination between, say, attacks by the forces of Moqtada al Sadr and Baathist "loyalists." The infrastructure was created before we ever arrived in Iraq.

I wrote about this phenomenon at the time, and it enabled me to accurately forecast what happened in Iraq: the active cooperation among terrorists of widely diverse ideological, religious, and national backgrounds and convictions, in a desperate effort to drive us out of Iraq.

The war in the Middle East — for it is a regional war, not merely a battle for Iraq — cannot be analyzed at the level of the individual terrorist groups, because the terrorists are part of a larger context. The organizing center is, as Spanish Magistrate Balthazar Garzon publicly put it, a "directorate" located in Iran, that works closely with Iranian intelligence organizations, including the Revolutinary Guards. Those organizations, in turn, work with their counterparts in other friendly countries.

BLIND ANALYSTS
In order to conceal their activities from us, the Iranians have deployed several deceptive myths. The two most effective are "al Qaeda" and "Zarqawi." I believe I was the first American writer to call attention to Zarqawi (long before he was named by secretary of State Colin Powell in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council). I was able to do that because I had read German and Italian court documents that proved Zarqawi, operating from Tehran, had organized a European terrorist network. I'm sure that fact was known to Garzon, as it was to the Italian military intelligence organization, SISMI, which came to similar conclusions (published a few months ago in the Corriere della Sera).

This was the period when, according to our intelligence analysts, Zarqawi became a major player in al Qaeda.

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It follows that the Iranians were involved in the marriage between al Qaeda and Zarqawi. To believe otherwise, you'd have to believe that Zarqawi and top al Qaeda officials were operating freely and independently of the Iranian regime. I don't think any serious person would buy that one.

But the notion that radical Sunni terrorists like Zarqawi and bin Laden and Zawahiri were working hand in glove with the radical Shiite regime in Tehran was an impossible hypothesis for most of our analysts, who believed that strategic cooperation between Sunnis and Shiites was not possible (even though, for example, the Sunnis of Arafat's Fatah-trained Khomeni's Shiites — the embryonic Revolutionary Guards — in the Bekaa Valley as early as 1972. I have personally interviewed the person who organized that training program). Those analysts were working with false assumptions within the wrong context.

By now, an Iranian role is obvious, as is the Syrian component. More evidence pours in every hour. Just look at the best Iraqi bloggers, or, if that's too hard, just listen to the Iraqi defense minister or the Iraqi interior minister. But I don't think we have accepted the full context, and we won't get it right so long as we continue to obsess over al Qaeda and/or Zarqawi.

Zarqawi is an instrument of a far more powerful terrorist engine: the Iranian regime, allied with other terror masters. Zarqawi himself is only involved in a fraction of the actions for which he gets credit; the most important figure is actually our old enemy, Imad Mughniya, the operational commander of Hezbollah. And if you're in a betting mood, I'll give you even money that Hezbollah is the operational glue that binds together the various terrorist factions on the ground in Iraq.

TYRANNICAL TERROR TRIO
I think it's fair to say that my analysis has stood up pretty well, starting more than a year before Operation Iraqi Freedom. If I am right, then we cannot possibly "win" in Iraq, because Iraq is just one battlefield in a (at a mininum) regional war. The Iranians, Syrians, and (a significant group of) Saudis dare not acquiesce in the creation of a free and successful Iraq, because that would mortally threaten their own survival. The regimes in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh are extremely unpopular; their peoples are aching for the chance to remove the regimes and experiment with freedom. The regimes know that, and are ruthlessly oppressing their peoples.

Remember that Machiavelli said that tyranny is most unstable form of government. And precisely because the regimes are unstable, our most potent weapon against them is political, not military. I do not believe we can win the war by force of arms alone. It is certainly very important to defeat al Sadr in Najaf and Kut, and to liberate Fallujah, but even those victories will not suffice. Our regional enemies will find new instruments — indeed, I have no doubt they have them already in place. Victory, as the president has said, requires regime change and the spread of freedom. And this is not nearly so daunting as might appear.

We defeated the Soviet Empire at a time when only a small minority of the people was willing to fight for freedom. We overthrew Milosevic with a minority of the Yugoslavs. In Iran we have upwards of 70 percent of the people on our side. If we supported them, I think it quite likely that we could liberate Iran in a matter of a few months. And if Iran falls, Syria will most likely come right alongside.

If we do not quickly expose the vulnerability of mullahs and empower the Iranian people, I believe the next few months in Iraq will, if Tehran has its way, be bloodier than anything we have seen to date. Not to mention the planned attacks against us here at home.

Faster. Please?


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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.

Up

08/16/04: The Iran-Iraq War, Again: Listen to the Iraqis (And, faster please)
08/11/04: Intelligence and Imagination: The only real 'fix' is good leadership and accountability
07/27/04: The Nature of the Enemy: Win first. Hearts and minds will come
07/26/04: The 9/11 Vision: Better, but not there yet
07/20/04: Are you sitting down? Iran is a terrorist state
07/13/04: The Great Intelligence Committee Report: Some mysteries remain unsolved
06/30/04: The Fears of the Terror Masters: If we want a peaceful Iraq we will have to confront the mullahs
06/29/04: The Iraqis and the Neocons: Arab democracy is a work in progress
06/23/04: Ready for $60-a-Barrel Oil?: The Iranian election strategy at work
06/15/04: Iran is making trouble, and finessing it is a dangerous strategy
06/02/04: Reagan Seen Plain: He changed the world 06/02/04: Quattrocchi's Killers: We are dealing with a truly international terror network
05/25/04: The Agency Rides Again: Angleton on Chalabi
05/24/04: Lying into the mirror: Misunderstaning the war on terror
05/18/04: Kristof’s Iran
04/19/04: The Iranian Hand: Regime change in Tehran is necessary for peace in Iraq
04/15/04: Dealing with the Libyans: Is Khaddafi about to cash out?
04/08/04: From Tyranny to Freedom: Democracy in Iraq has precedent
03/18/04: Drifting, Dangerously: We must support freedom
03/02/04: Once Upon a Spymaster, Part II: Returning to a conversation
02/24/04: The Great Iranian Election Fiasco: What actually happened; what we must do
02/20/04: Stalinist Mullahs: The Iranian regime is in open battle with its own people
02/11/04: The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"
02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen